1 » Already the 2015 USA Softball Player of the Year (first in program history), Most Outstanding Player from the 2015 Women’s College World Series and the 2015 SEC Pitcher of the Year, Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger added to her trophy case on Wednesday by being named the 2015 Honda Sport Award winner for softball. The honor makes Haeger a finalist for Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the 2015 Honda Cup. She is the second Florida softball player to win the award (Kelsey Bruder, 2011), 18th overall Gators athlete since 1978 and second this year (Kytra Hunter, gymnastics).
Haeger, the second player (Babe Ruth) with 70+ home runs and 70+ wins on either the college (baseball, softball) or professional (MLB) level, smacked 71 homers and won 73 games over her four-year career at Florida. She finished the 2015 campaign with a 32-2 record and 1.23 ERA with 25 complete games in 35 starts and 214 strikeouts in 222.1 innings pitched.
For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.
14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET
Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.
13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME
Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.
Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.
Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers did not start Tuesday night’s game for the Florida Gators, but her steady hand and tremendous command closed out the final two innings of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series, helping Florida softball (55-12) earn the first National Championship in program history on the back of a 6-3 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (53-13).
The Gators swept the Crimson Tide in the best-of-three series with Rogers earning a 5-0 shutout win on Monday and finding her well-deserved place on the mound in the final exciting moments on Tuesday.
It was the first time in three WCWS Championship Series appearances that Florida won a single game (0-4 combined in 2009, 2011) yet the Gators were dominant at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Florida outscored its opponents 81-10 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament with eight shutouts and six run-rule victories.
Rogers went 7-0 with a save in eight total appearances, giving up just four earned runs in 44 innings pitched while shutting out her adversaries in 42 of those frames. She was named 2014 WCWS Most Outstanding Player after the game.
Nevertheless, it was junior RHP Lauren Haeger received the call and subsequently got off to a rough start in the circle for UF, giving up back-to-back singles to open the game before a sacrifice fly advanced both base runners.
Advancing to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007, the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) pulled off a 62-52 victory over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) in the Elite Eight round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some of his players met with the media to discuss the historic win.
POST-GAME CELEBRATION, NET CUTTING
Donovan and his players could not say it enough on Friday: Florida’s three-straight Elite Eight losses had nothing at all to do with Saturday’s game. Yet while the Gators’ roster is different, their chemistry is improved and they are currently in the midst of the most impressive single season in school history, it would have been a blemish had UF not overcome this obstacle.
Elite Eight demon, you have been exorcised.
“I’m not so sure that these four seniors, having gone through the experience in the previous Elite Eights, could have made the next step that they made,” Donovan said. “There were things we went through the last three years that enabled those guys to learn a lot to take the next step that they did this year.”
He continued: “They’re better players today by going through what they went through. If it would have been easier on them, I don’t think they’d be quite as good. I think the struggle they’ve had to go through has forced them to have perseverance, resiliency, mental and physical toughness to be able to battle and fight. More than anything else, as a coach, the thing you love about that is hopefully they can take those qualities to the next step in their life, because when they start a new career in their life, they’re going to go through some of that themselves.”
The only player in Florida Gators basketball history to win an NCAA Championship and NBA title, forward Corey Brewer signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason and will return to the team that selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.
After a three-year career at Florida that included the first triple-double in school history, two NCAA titles and the 2007 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player award, Brewer began playing as a professional with Minnesota but struggled after a torn ACL forced him to miss the majority of the 2008-09 season.
A trade resulted in Brewer being waived, but a subsequent contract signing brought him all the way to the 2011 NBA Finals with Dallas. He has spent the last three years with Denver following a second trade and raised his value by playing in George Karl’s up-tempo system. One of the most coveted free agents on the open market (after the top-tier players got snatched up this offseason), Brewer chose to reunite with Minnesota. But before that season can begin, he will return to Gainesville, FL, to host the fourth annual Corey Brewer Back-to-Back Basketball Camp benefiting the Corey Brewer Fight Diabetes Fund at Shands Hospital.
OnlyGators.com sat down with Brewer on Sunday to discuss his college legacy, NBA career and his charitable endeavors.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN:Growing up in Tennessee, what was it about Florida and head coach Billy Donovan that made you decide that playing for the Gators was the right choice for your future as a basketball player? COREY BREWER: “First of all, when I came on my official visit and I saw the campus, I was like, man, this is so wonderful. The campus was beautiful. It was just amazing. Everybody was so nice. Coach Donovan and his style of play, playing up-and-down the court, it was perfect for me. Even though I wanted to stay close to home, Tennessee was playing slow at the time and I just did not feel like I fit into Vanderbilt’s system. Florida was definitely the place for me.”
AS:Did you know any of the other guys in your recruiting class before committing? CB:Al [Horford] from Nike camps a little bit, and I knew Taurean [Green]. He was trying to get me to commit hard when we were at camps together over the summer. Taurean committed first and he was like, ‘Come on, we need you, we need you, you need to go ahead and commit.’ I heard that for a week straight and got to know him well. I didn’t know Jo[akim Noah] too well though.”
AS:What did you think about Jo the first time you met him? CB: “This guy is just a free spirit, a good guy. When we first met, we were playing in the gym and he came in and started working hard. You could just tell he was a good guy.”
No. 2 Florida Gators (27-1) women’s tennis became just the second program in the history of the sport to win back-to-back national championships, capturing the program’s second-straight title with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 1 UCLA Bruins (26-3) in the finals of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday at Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.
Florida ended their season on a 22-match winning streak, sweeping four of the five opponents they faced on their way to the program’s sixth national title. The Gators were playing for the NCAA Championship for the third-straight year (lost to Stanford in 2010) and 13th time in school history.
No. 1 junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen wasted little time getting Florida on the board in doubles action, dominating No. 6 Robin Anderson/Skylar Morton from start to finish in an 8-2 win.
The Gators found themselves down early in the other two doubles matches with No. 22 junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather trailing No. 9 Pamela Montez/Courtney Dolehide and the team of sophomore Alex Cercone/junior Caroline Hitimana falling behind McCall Jones/Carling Seguso.
Florida slowly but surely fought their way back in both matches with Cercone/Hitimana eventually defeating Jones/Seguso 8-5 and Embree/Mather leading Montez/Dolehide 6-5 when the doubles point was clinched for the Gators to give UF an early 1-0 lead.
No. 79 Cercone had a much easier time in her singles match, quickly defeating No. 119 Chanelle Van Nguyen in straight sets (6-2, 6-0) to extend Florida’s lead to 2-0 with five matches still in action. No. 61 Oyen then registered a clean victory over No. 124 Morton, beating the freshman 6-3, 6-2 to pull the Gators within one match of the title.
It was No. 9 Embree who was once again tasked with closing out the national championship for Florida after winning the title in a grueling three-set tiebreaker one year ago. She did not waste much time doing just that, taking down No. 98 Jones 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the national championship for the Gators.
Following the match, Embree was awarded the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award for the second-straight year. She was also named to the All-Tournament team along with Cercone at the two and four spots for singles, respectively.
“It’s amazing. I still can’t really believe that just happened again that we went back-to-back. It’s just so exciting; I’m so proud of my teammates,” Embree said. “I said last year was a dream come true, but it’s a dream come true again. Our team has worked so hard, and I just feel like we played so well this week. I’m so proud of them.”
No. 1 Will trailed No. 4 Anderson 4-6, 2-5 at the time of completion. No. 21 Mather was slightly up on No. 73 Montez 3-6, 6-3, 1-0, and sophomore Olivia Janowicz was nearly even with Seguso 6-7, 5-2 when the title was clinched.
Florida women’s tennis’ victory Tuesday marks the school’s 28th overall national championship and 19th since athletic director Jeremy Foley took over. It was also head coach Roland Thornqvist‘s third national title since being hired in 2002.
A tumultuous weekend and up-and-down season came to a conclusion for No. 5 Florida Gators softball as the team fell 1-0 to the South Florida Bulls and failed in their bid to advance out of the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Florida (48-13) lost the first game of the regional but won consecutive contests in the loser’s bracket on Saturday to move on to the finals against USF (48-11). The Gators were hoping to win and force a second game on Sunday but instead lost the contest and failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for the fifth-straight season.
Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) got the nod to start and pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.0 innings. Her lone blemish came in the top of the fourth when an infield single allowed the Bulls to score what would end up being the game-deciding run.
Rogers’s complete game performance was matched by South Florida starter Sara Nevens, who allowed five hits and three walks but struck out 12 including two important batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Florida rallied to load the bases with no one out but failed to cross the plate as Nevins struck out consecutive batters and forced an infield groundout to get out of the frame unscathed.
Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game in orange and blue, was the only Florida batter to register more than one hit as she went 2-for-4 on the afternoon. She concluded her UF career as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99). Moultrie also picked up a number of awards during her tenure with the Gators including 2010 SEC Player of the Year, 2011 WCWS Co-Most Outstanding Player, 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and a number of All-American honors.
It is the first time since 2006 that Florida did not move on to the Super Regional.
Though he did not get into specifics regarding the incident that led to him eventually suspending three of his starters, head coach Tim Walton spoke more about the general situation following Sunday’s loss at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.
For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.
10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.
9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)
It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.
Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.
Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.
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